Chicago Public Schools to pay back $87 million in overpayments

(The Center Square) – Chicago Public Schools were given $87 million from the Illinois State Board of Education in error and now they owe that money back.

The coding error in the system was made by a third party and resulted in overstated payments to Chicago Public Schools of $6.7 million in 2019, $17.9 million in 2020 and 2021, and $44.9 million in 2022 for a cumulative total of $87.5 million, according to an Illinois Auditor General report.

CPS was the only district to get overpaid.

State Rep. William Davis, D-Hazel Crest, said plans are in the works to pay back the money owed by CPS.

“Everyone is working together, and ISBE acknowledged that they have been in contact with CPS, they recognized the error and now Chicago Public Schools are working to pay that money back,” Davis told The Center Square.

State Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, is calling on the Illinois Auditor General to audit the Chicago Public School system to find out where the extra funds were spent.

“I need to make sure that the public is aware of CPS spending patterns,” Ford said. “It would be great to say that the extra money they received, that they should not have received, went to benefit the schools, but I can’t say that it did.”

Davis suggested a different approach.

“Once that extra money was distributed and a legislator wants to reach out, I believe they should be reaching out to that particular school district and asking those substantive questions,” Davis said.

Ford said with all the funding these schools get, an official audit is needed.

“We need an audit because now we have to find out exactly why, why are these kids experiencing these types of outcomes in their schools,” Ford told The Center Square.

CPS test scores have been trending downward for years with student reading proficiency dropping 70% and math proficiency dropping 80% since 2010, according to research by the Illinois Policy Institute.

The Chicago Public School System did not return a request for comment but did release a statement to the Chicago Tribune.

“The error made by an ISBE contractor in 2018 during the initial development of the enrollment verification system for evidence-based funding has caused an overpayment to CPS in the amount of $87.5 million,” said CPS spokeswoman Mary Fergus. “We are in discussions with ISBE and the General Assembly about the impacts on CPS and the state budget.”